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Since the 1960s, the US birth rate has declined, but the rate of teenage pregnancies has increased. Until recently, there have been no data on contraceptive use by unmarried, never-pregnant adolescents. Little attention has been given to contraceptive use as a means of preventing these pregnancies with their attendant medical, economic, and social problems. This report reviews existing data on teenage contraceptive use with the emphasis on the relationship of clinical and demographic perspectives. Recent demographic surveys have reported that 55% of unmarried women have had intercourse by age 19. Such surveys also have suggested that teenagers' problems with access to contraceptives arc a leading reason for their nonuse. Although access to contraceptives has become easier during the 1970s, half of all sexually active teenagers still have not visited a doctor or clinic to obtain contraceptive information or devices. There is only fragmentary information in the literature concerning the motivations involved in teenage contraceptive use and nonuse. Neurotic symptom measures have not differentiated pregnant and nonpregnant girls. Recent clinical studies have suggested that teenage girls who carry their pregnancies to term are not representative of the sexually active teenage population. The idea that pregnant teenagers wanted to become pregnant has been challenged both by current abortion rates and by survey data that report only 16% of sexually active teenagers desire pregnancy. Practical implications for physicians are drawn from the reviewed material.

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